1862: Melzar Wentworth Clark to his Daughter

This letter was written by Melzar Wentworth Clark (1812-1895) of Hingham, Plymouth county, Massachusetts. Melzar was married to Sabina Hobart Lincoln (1820-1906) in 1837 and was working as a baker in Hingham when his oldest son Andrew Jackson Clark (1837-1927) enlisted to served in Co. H, 23rd Massachusetts in 1861.

I could not find any evidence that 50 year-old Melzar was serving in any official military capacity at the time he wrote this letter in September 1862. My assumption is that he was at the Hammond General Hospital as a civilian volunteer, or perhaps as a government paid work in the hospital bakery. In any event, we learn from this letter that he was at the hospital assisting the medical staff with the treatment of the wounded soldiers who were “from the late battlefields” near Washington D. C. These would have been, of course, the battles at Groveton, 2nd Bull Run, and/or Chantilly.


Hammond General Hospital (spoke-like structure at lower left) on Point Lookout, MD. This artist’s rendering is from later in the war. Melzar was probably quartered in the two-story structure that looks more like a house at right center facing the ocean. The wharf can be clearly seen at the left or sheltered side of the peninsula.

Ward B, Hammond General Hospital
Point Lookout, Maryland
September 14, 1862

Dear Daughter

It is now 3 oclock P.M. I have just shaved me & sat down for the first time since I got up. Four hundred wounded soldiers arrived here yesterday afternoon in the J. R. Spaulding from Washington. They are from the late battlefields in that vicinity. Quite a large number are Massachusetts men.  Tell Lyman Whiten there is one man from Captain [Cephas C.] Bumpus’ Company named Hiram Nickerson 1 who lost his right middle finger by a minié ball here. He says he is the only one in the 32rd regiment harmed. There are some from the 18th Regiment, some from the 29th (Barnes’) and other regiments. They are wounded in all parts of their limbs, hips, and shoulders. It was a sad sight to see them come hobbling up from the boat—which lands close by here—with crutches, canes, &c. so exhausted as to sink down upon the floor as soon as they could get a chance.

We have had a hard time of it ever since they arrived getting their beds up and the linens ready for them and for themselves, to say nothing about providing it for all the other patients. This morning Dr. Stearns and  Lombard, with me for an assistant, as soon as breakfast was over, went through with what there was in Ward B. It took them till noon removing the bandages, probing and otherwise examining their wounds and redressing them. They bore all with great fortitude. We suffer none from the heat although it is quite hot in the sun. I never saw so much difference anywhere at the North as there is here between being in the shade and in the sun. The suns rays penetrate just like the heat of an  oven, while at the same time it is delightfully cool and balmy in the shade.

The Philadelphia Enquirer, 25 November 1862

I found it so in Baltimore in a peculiar manner and, also, on my way down the Chesapeake on board the Major Belger. This is owing to the sea breeze that is constantly blowing from all quarters here. As the ward I am in is in upper story of what was a spacious hotel which embraces three large houses attached to one another, we feel the full force of it through the long corridors which extend north and south, east and west, between the rooms, with windows opening at the top and clear down  to the floor.

As we look across the mouth of the Potomac, the sacred soil of Virginia is in full view 8 or 10 miles distant. We can see it some ways up the river, and down to the light at the mouth of the  Rapahannock.

This is the third letter that I have written home. I have received nothing as yet but  hope to before long. Mary Hobart said she would see that the Boston Journal was sent me. I have not got one yet. If you have found that large map Andrew had at Fortress Monroe that came out of that big book, I wish it put in an envelope newspaper fashion and forwarded to me by mail. His is Papa’s little humming bird and the baby? From your father, — M. W. Clark

1 The only Nickerson I can find in the 32nd Massachusetts Infantry was listed on the roster as William T. Nickerson (1838-1867) of Plymouth in Co. E.

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